Scott Muir ‘06, international studies major and participant in the inaugural Wisconsin in Washington Program in 2005, shares his reflection on participating in the program and building a career and life in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. is the world’s meeting ground for today’s brightest, most ambitious minds on international affairs and public policy. Newcomers and seasoned professionals from around the globe bring their talents to the national capital region to find solutions to problems and effect real change. The Wisconsin in Washington (WIW) program provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to live out the Wisconsin Idea in D.C. and discover that education really does extend beyond the classroom.
Prior to my participation in the program, I had never visited Washington, D.C. I overcame a tough upbringing in Kenosha and eventually made it to Madison, where in the aftermath of 9/11, I was enrolled in courses on Arabic language and politics and religion of the Islamic world, among other things. I couldn’t afford to study abroad as I was working my way through school, but I had the good fortune to discover the Wisconsin in Washington program. I learned that Wisconsin in Washington offers a chance to gain real work experience on international affairs and public policy in the fast-paced U.S. capital, and was thrilled to be accepted to the program with an internship at Voice of America, the world’s largest international broadcaster, situated directly across from Capitol Hill.
At Voice of America,I worked in the 24/7 newsroom writing and editing articles for the website,and also spent time in the English 2 Africa department preparing radio shows broadcast to Anglophone audiences on the continent. For a time, I also served as an assistant in the Kurdish news unit where I learned about a new language and culture. My internship was exciting and full of learning about new and interesting ideas as well as meeting new friends. Everywhere I was placed within Voice of America,people were welcoming and impressed that an undergraduate student from the University of Wisconsin had made it all the way to D.C.and was working alongside them.
The invaluable experience I gained while working and studying in Washington enabled me to launch a successful career and build a life in the D.C. area. I landed my first job in international affairs with a private consulting firm in Dupont Circle, in part, because the internship experience was listed on my resume, while a contact made during my internship helped me to secure my first apartment in the big city. Today, I work in downtown Washington as a senior analyst at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm. I have the privilege to problem-solve and strategize on cutting-edge issues alongside corporate lawyers, foreign experts, former intelligence officials and other professionals.
The Wisconsin in Washington program has provided many young Badgers and myself with a stepping-stone to the next adventure in our lives and that is why I give back to the program by serving as a mentor. It is an honor to be able to help each new group of WIW students with advice, insights and good old-fashioned conversation about their aspirations and goals for the future. The United States, and the world, will be better served if University of Wisconsin students have a strong presence in centers of power like Washington, D.C. The WIW program is doing its part to make this happen. I hope you’ll join us.